Arizona law on professional licenses: what you need to know – The Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey has taken a victory lap after signing a new law that allows Arizona to recognize out-of-state professional licenses for myriad jobs.
But while leaders celebrate, the state departments that issue licenses are trying to figure out how to make this work, and some are concerned the law may actually create new roadblocks for some workers.
The goal of the bill is to make it easy for people to move to Arizona and get a job if they already have a professional license in another state. The hassle of retraining and relicensing prevents some people from moving and others from working in their chosen profession.
Ducey signed the bill earlier this month to allow people with out-of-state licenses to become licensed in Arizona without additional training or education.
But not all of the agencies that issue such licenses are prepared to meet the requirements of House Bill 2569.
The good news for them is they have more than 90 days to get ready. The law does not take effect until three months after the legislative session ends, and the current session promises to drag on for several more weeks, if not longer. That means the law likely won’t be effective until late summer or early fall.
The Governor’s Office already has issued a one-page fact sheet to provide some clarification on the bill.
“The new law DOES NOT recognize other states’ occupational licenses automatically,” it reads. “For example, workers licensed in other states who move to Arizona still MUST apply for a license through the appropriate Arizona licensing board before working.”
Some licensing departments already have compacts with other states that offer reciprocity, and those compacts will not be affected by the bill.
But some agencies have major questions about how to apply the law.
For example, architects, engineers, geologists, home inspectors, landscape architects and surveyors licensed by the Board of Technical Registration may actually face additional difficulty obtaining a license in Arizona because of the bill’s residency requirement, said Executive Director Melissa Cornelius.
Many professionals who wish to work in Arizona in those professions do not relocate here, and the board already had a means of licensing those people.
The concern is that the new law would supersede that practice.
She said the board “has long advocated and promoted smart regulation, and licensing mobility for the professions it regulates.” It even promoted legislation to end licensing for assaying, drug lab remediation and remediation specialists in 2016.
She has asked Ducey’s office and the Attorney General’s Office for guidance in implementing the law.
The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners similarly is unsure how to proceed.
“It’s too early for us to opine,” Executive Director Ryan Edmonson said. “The board is currently reviewing the provisions of the bill and how to implement them prior to the bill becoming effective.”
The state Board of Nursing issued additional guidance online to people with questions about how it affects potential applicants, but declined to answer questions about how they plan to put the law into practice.
A representative for the Board of Chiropractic Examiners said the board could meet the new requirements and had no issues with the law. They will not, however, provide guidance to would-be applicants until the law becomes effective.
Some people will see an immediate benefit, such as those from out of state seeking one of the approximately 60 different licenses available for construction work. About 39,600 contractors in the state hold such licenses today.
“What this bill actually means to an applicant is that if they qualify for this section, (the Registrar of Contractors) will waive the experience requirements and trade examination,” said Jim Knupp, chief of operations for the registrar. “A new, streamlined application for out-of-state licensees will likely be created to reflect this change.”
Real estate is one of the broader job categories where licensing is required. The Arizona Department of Real Estate does not currently reciprocate licenses from other states.
People who want to sell real estate had to complete 90 hours of pre-licensing education at an approved Arizona real estate school and pass the examination at an approved real estate school, college or university under the old rules.
The Department of Real Estate licenses more than 66,000 salespeople, brokers and entities in the state.
“The Department of Real Estate will work to determine how out-of-state applicants are approved under this new law, and provide more information on the ADRE website prior to the effective date,” Deputy Commissioner Louis Dettore said Thursday.
Ducey’s office is willing to work with licensing departments, where it is allowed by law, to ensure the law is put into action as planned, spokesman Patrick Ptak said.
“We understand universal reciprocity is a significant policy change and it will take a reworking of processes,” Ptak said.
Ptak said state law restricts how much the Governor’s Office can advise state departments on the law, but that each department can reach out to the Attorney General’s Office for guidance.
“We want to be good partners,” Ptak said. “We want to be a resource.”
In addition to the extra information on the bill the Governor’s Office published, the office will provide language to the various departments that they can use to explain to potential applicants that the implementation plan is still under development for certain occupations.
“We want to make this as smooth as possible for agencies and also for people looking to take advantage of it,” he said.
The Governor’s Office said that affected occupations include barbers, chiropractors, contractors, dentists, real estate agents, nurses, pharmacists, veterinarians and more.
The bill was touted as having wide-ranging impacts on myriad workers who need licenses in Arizona.
About 470,000 Arizonans require a license to practice their particular profession, according to the Institute for Justice, an “economic liberty” advocacy group that supported the bill.
A 2017 study by the Institute for Justice examined 102 common licenses for low-income jobs, and found that states on average require licenses for 54 occupations. Arizona was above that with licenses required for 68 of the jobs examined.
Of the 102 occupations that study examined, the average cost to obtain a license was $267. Washington and Louisiana required licenses for the most jobs, 77 each, while Wyoming required the fewest, 26.
Arizona, however, ranked the fourth most “burdensome” state in that study because of the cost of obtaining the licenses here, $612, and the average number of days, 765, to get them.
“The vast majority of these occupations are practiced in at least one state — and typically many more than one — without need of permission from the state and evidently without widespread harm,” the study authors wrote.
The bill is a continuation of a push by Ducey and state departments to reduce occupational licensing, but not all licensed professions in the state are regulated by the same part of state law.
Sorting out who is affected by the bill has caused some confusion.
The editorial board of Bloomberg recently fawned over Ducey’s signature of the bill, and used bus drivers as an example of an occupation where workers are subject to oppressive occupational licensing. Ducey posted a link to the editorial on Twitter on April 17.
However, Arizona already has reciprocity with all 50 states on commercial driver’s licenses required for bus drivers. People with such a license in another state can drive in Arizona today.
Similarly, the Arizona Department of Insurance has issued licenses to more than 200,000 professionals in that field. But that department is unaffected by the recent bill because it is regulated by a separate chapter of law.
Hunting and fishing guides in Arizona require a guide license from Game and Fish, but the application and test for obtaining that will not change under the new law, nor will the $300 fee, spokesman Tom Cadden said.
People who remove or relocate nuisance wildlife need a wildlife service license, and the application for that free license also is not affected by the new bill, he said.
Last year, the state Game and Fish Department changed the requirement that taxidermists get a state license, instead of simply requiring them to register with the state.
The bill amends Title 32 of Arizona state law.
Professions in that chapter, and presumably affected, include: accountants, acupuncturists, architects, athletic trainers, barbers, behavioral health professionals, chiropractors, collection agencies, contractors, cosmetologists, dentists, embalmers, engineers, funeral directors, geologists, health professionals, home inspectors, landscape architects, physicians (allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic, osteopathic and their assistants), massage therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, opticians, pharmacists, physical therapists, podiatrists, postsecondary schools, professional driver training schools and agents, psychologists, radiologists, real estate appraisers and agents, reporters (stenographers), respiratory care workers, surgeons, surveyors, and veterinarians.
Private investigators and security guards were specifically excluded from the bill.
The bill allows agencies to continue administering tests to get a license, and it seems most will.
The State Board of Pharmacy is awaiting guidance from the Attorney General’s Office, but doesn’t anticipate complications from the bill, Executive Director Kam Gandhi said.
“We actually follow the majority of that language today,” he said.
Pharmacists licensed in other states still will need to take an exam on Arizona law, he said. That fee is $500 today, but he’s unsure what it might be after the new law is implemented.
“That is part of the equation the attorney general is evaluating for us,” he said.
“We still have to ensure there are no issues in their home state, or in any other state they might be licensed in,” he said, adding that the board uses a national clearinghouse to check licensees’ records in other states.
The board has about 40,000 license and permit holders in the state, including pharmacists and technicians.
“The good news is there is not a lot of change for us,” he said.
Sam Barcelona, executive director for the Arizona Board of Barbers, said that the new law is a commonsense reform, echoing many of the governor’s statements about talent not being lost when someone moves states.
He also said the board of barbers had already had reciprocity with some states and was working to expand to others.
“I’ve had the desire to do this for a long, long, long time,” Barcelona said. “The bottom line to this is that we now have reciprocity with everybody essentially. … The process for reciprocity for the other states and gathering of documentation would now apply to all of the states.”
Kim Scoplitte, the Executive Director for the Arizona State Board of Cosmetologists, said the new law will not affect their licensing. The Board already had reciprocity with other state licenses.
“We have reviewed this bill and there’s not much different with what we have right now,” Scoplitte said. “I’m assuming we can still use (our reciprocity).”
Currently, according to Scoplitte, the board of cosmetologists will approve a license approximately 2-3 weeks after an application is filed if an individual holds a license from another state and is in good standing with that state. There is no requirement on how long they held the license previously.
Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.
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